We use our cell phones every day. Their features and mobility have made them an essential part of everyday life—from being our alarm in the morning, to our GPS, music player and even camera. The power of the cell phone has even caused previous, important technology to become nonexistent in our daily lives—being replaced by an app in a phone. Keep reading to see the top 12 technologies that cell phones have replaced.

1876 – PRESENT

The first phone was created in the 1870s, but it is far from the cell phones of today. Known as a rotary phone, it was the first type of phone that people could have in their homes.

Since these home phones were not transportable, the early 1900s also saw the development of payphones, phones placed across the country where people could insert money and then make a call. In the 1960s, a new wave of slimmer home phones came onto the market. These new phones lived on a slim square base and had buttons people could press when dialing a number. The desire for portable communication led to the creation of the beeper —also known as the pager—which gained popularity in the 1990s. This provided mobility and led to people getting creative with creating codes to stand for different messages (the original "texting" lingo). These beepers did not, however, allow for people to actually answer and make calls. This need led to the development of the first actual cell phone in the mid-to-late-1990s. These were flip phones with small screens and very few features. They allowed for people to call and instant message each other. The first smartphone was developed in the mid-2000s; these phones were defined by having a touch screen and different applications or apps that people could download.1

1816 – PRESENT

Cameras have been around and have been evolving for over two centuries, with the first "traditional" camera invented in the 1800s.

From there, the first half of the 1900s was filled with the development of film-based cameras, where you had to buy film, take the pictures, and then develop the film in order to see the pictures. The 1970s saw the development of the digital camera, where pictures were stored directly on a tape recorder. In the 1980s, the first camcorder was developed—this allowed for people to record videos and store them on a tape recorder. These two devices became popular methods for families to record memories while also being able to easily rewatch them later on. With the high-tech nature of these early digital cameras, people sought cheaper options that could still provide the same easy use. This led to the development and popularity of the disposable camera, which was incredibly inexpensive and allowed for people to easily take and develop photos. In the early 2000s, cell phones began to have built-in cameras, but with the low picture quality, people still turned to digital cameras for their photo-taking needs. It wasn’t until the development of the smartphone in the mid-2000s that cell phone cameras were upgraded. Today, most people rely solely on their cell phones for their picture- and video-taking needs, and some phones even come with camera attachments for taking high-quality pictures.2


Up until the 1980s, people strictly used paper maps for all of their traveling needs—no technology required.

The U.S. military created and developed a GPS (Global Positioning System), but it was designed for military use only up until the ‘80s. In the late 1980s, several companies designed navigation systems for public use—they were handheld devices with small screens that required the user to enter in the coordinates of their destination before giving step-by-step directions. This was not very user-friendly, and also very expensive. Since then, GPS systems have been given a facelift and improved design. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many GPS systems allowed for users to enter a street address and provided voice directions and a digital map for users to follow. With the creation of the cell phone, many phones were designed with a built-in map feature that could be used in the same way as stand-alone GPS systems. With the small screens on early cell phones, many people still utilized these stand-alone GPS systems. In 2007, the first smartphone featured not only a larger display, but also an improved map feature. Most people rely solely on their cell phones for directions since there are many free apps available for download.3

1878 – PRESENT

For years, most people used to have at least one or more separate devices to listen to their favorite songs, but they were not always the most transportable (some contained several different pieces).

In the 1960s, the traditional radio was updated and upgraded to become a portable radio. For many years beforehand, radios were immovable and were listened to only in the home. This coincided with the development of the audio cassette and the eight-track tape, which made on-the-go music even more accessible. Audio cassette were used with portable music players, while eight-track tapes were used in car radios before audio cassettes. The 1980s saw the development of the compact disc (CD), which allowed for even more music mobility, and also for more space for music per disc. In the late 1990s, the first MP3 player was released and allowed for music to be taken anywhere and did not require any additional equipment besides headphones. People could download any songs they liked without having to listen to an entire album. With the creation of the smartphone, the MP3 player idea was incorporated directly into the cell phone, allowing for more convenient listening. 4

1847 - PRESENT

Alarm clocks used to be the most high-tech way to get up on time in the morning. The alarm clock itself has been around for centuries:

the first adjustable alarm clock—a wind-up alarm clock—was created in 1876. It was the first alarm clock that could be set for any time. Some of the clocks featured lights, sounds, or a combination of both. With the harsh sounds, some people sought to find a way to improve the noise they heard when waking up. Enter the radio alarm clock. In the 1940s, the first radio alarm clock was invented. A person could choose the time and station that would play when the alarm went off, allowing for more personalization. From there, alarm clocks adjusted with the time and evolution of clocks as well, from flip time clocks to digital clocks. In early 2006, the first online alarm clock was invented, allowing people could go online to set their alarms. With the invention of smartphones in the late 2000s, people could set their alarms from their phones rather than a set an alarm from a seperate device.5

1770 - PRESENT

Personal watches have been around for centuries, allowing for people to tell time while on the go.

The first "portable" pocket watch was invented in the 1600s, and was the most popular personal form of telling time. It was popular for well over 250 years until the invention of the wrist watch in mid-1900s. Initially, wrist watches only showed analog clocks, but with the development of digital clocks, were also available in a digital faces. One of the main features of early cell phones was the digital display of the time—something that has carried into the smartphone and every iteration of the cell phone. This allows people to see the time at a glance without having to read an analog clock or wear a seperate piece of jewelry.6

1840s - PRESENT

With the invention of the camera came the need to store physical photos somewhere. Enter the photo album.

For many years, people would print their pictures and store them in physical books to keep them secured. Even with early cell phones, the storage capacity was very minimal—many people still printed out their photos as their main form of storage. With the invention of the smartphone and the advancement of cameras came the need for better phone storage. Many smartphone manufacturers began increasing storage capacities and even created special apps for people to sort and view any photos they took. This not only saved time and money but also space in homes, allowing for people to immediately view their photos and virtually send them to anyone at any time.

1960s - PRESENT

Up until the early 1900s, the slide rule was the only type of calculator that a person could use if they wanted to count on something other than their hand.

Modernization of the calculator did not occur until the early 1960s, when the world’s first desktop electronic calculator was created. It was about the size of an encyclopedia and used a push button system to enter numbers. Rather than having screens, many of these early electronic calculators used paper to show calculations. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that calculators began to have screens instead of paper tape. It was also during this time that calculators became less bulky, more "pocket-sized," and more affordable. Since then, there was very little change to the look of the pocket calculator until the mid-2000s. With the invention of the cell phone, one of the main features was a basic calculator. Some more recent smartphones have even included calculators that can calculate more advanced functions. This allows for all people to have a calculator at their fingertips at any time, without having to carry any extra equipment.7

1899 - PRESENT

Up until the age of the cell phone, flashlights did not change much and were consistent fixtures in every home.

The early designs were a little bulky and not easy to carry around, but later versions were keychain-sized and more portable. With the invention of the smartphone, many people were able to have flashlights right in their pockets.The bulkiness of flashlights made it difficult to be portable, so the flashlight feature on cell phones provided the same amount of light without the added bulkiness.

1987 - PRESENT

Up until the late 1970s, most computer games could only be played via game consoles or desktop computers.

The first handheld computer game was created in 1979 and had a very small, pixelated screen and several functionality issues like small static charges. Most of the early handheld gaming consoles were very similar in design. In the late 1980s, the next wave of handheld gaming consoles was invented, starting the handheld gaming craze. These new gaming consoles were more affordable and had larger varieties of games; some of these handheld consoles even had color screens which allowed for more immersive experiences. Some later iterations even allowed for personalization with color cases. In the early-to-mid-2000s, most handheld gaming consoles could connect to the internet and gain a more streamlined look. With the increasing popularity and dependence on cell phones, many companies looked toward inventing gaming apps as well as equipment for people to play these games right on their smartphones—no extra devices required.8

1600s - PRESENT

Up until recent years, most people strictly carried physical cards and cash around with them for methods of payment. Wallets have been around for centuries and have not changed very much in that time.

Originally used to store paper money and coins, the late 1990s to early 2000s saw an increased use of credit cards, giving wallets a new purpose. Initially, even with the invention of the smartphone, wallets were still the best way to carry cards and money around. Recently, with the advancement of smartphones, most people can store their credit card information (as well as tickets and other cards) directly on their phones, and can even pay from their phones. This allows for ease of access and less worry about misplacing an entire wallet.9


Many people rely on their calendars for structure and reminders throughout the day. For many years, a paper calendar was one of the main ways to keep track of appointments, meetings, and general reminders.

From wall calendars to flat desk-style calendars to planners, there are a variety of styles. With the invention of cell phones in the late 1990s, people were able to view customized calendars right on their phones. Initial phone calendars only allowed people to view the day/week/month, but the creation of the smartphone led to additional updates. Current cell phone calendars allow people to track appointments with details on where and what time the appointment is, and even set calendar reminders. Phone calendars have allowed people to take their calendars with them on the go and update them in seconds.